The Big Issue: Journalism worth paying for

Bryan Cranston from 'Breaking Bad' on the cover of The Big Issue
Bryan Cranston from ‘Breaking Bad’ on the cover of The Big Issue

Many of you, if not most, would have walked past someone trying to sell you a copy of The Big Issue. And I’m sure that many of you have also rejected the seller in a flurry, passing them off as a mere distraction on a busy day. Maybe after reading this, you’ll think twice about doing that.

The Big Issue was founded in 1991 with the intention of providing jobs for homeless individuals. Since then, a total of over $19 million has been earnt and pocketed by Australia’s disadvantaged. Written by independent and professional journalists, it offers opportunities for them to earn a legitimate income and take a positive step to changing their lives around for the better.

A homeless man selling The Big Issue
A homeless man selling The Big Issue

But how does it work? Vendors (the homeless) purchase copies of The Big Issue magazine and sell it on the streets for a price of $6, from which they pocket the difference. As mentioned in a previous blog post, stable jobs are extremely hard to find for many of the homeless population, due to inconsistency of hours, lack of address or phone. However, The Big Issue is an option that allows these individual vendors to choose their own hours, days and period of work, without the need for proper addresses.

Not only does this magazine provide opportunities for the homeless in getting them back on their feet, but also raises awareness in the community about social matters like this, and the importance of helping. It shows us that in society today, the homeless are not simply lazy and do find ways to try make a living to support themselves with basic needs.

So let’s meet a vendor and hear his story:

Paul D
Paul D

My mother died when I was seven, and my father when I was 16. I’d always worked, starting from the meat works industry from a young age in order to support myself.

I travelled back to England with a Scottish friend, but unfortunately sad times came and he became sick and suddenly passed away. After that, I didn’t have any money to get back to Australia and when I eventually did, I was already growing old.

Back in Australia, I tried to get any job that I could lay my hands on, including a road sweeping one, but had no luck as nobody was hiring. I couldn’t get any money off Centrelink, or a pension, and soon I found myself homeless and without a job. I had tried and tried, but nobody had given me a chance.

That’s until I found the Big Issue, which I started selling in 2001 on Hunter Street, which I’m still on till this day. My day begins at around 7:30am, and I sell for hours until 2pm, when I then have a break before coming back out. Many of the customers are regulars, so I’ve created relationships with most of them and on many occasions they’ll bring me out a cup of coffee to ease the day.

I used to sleep very close to Hunter Street, and always next to the same people, a guy and a girl, just for safety. But as you get older, like I had become, it becomes more and more dangerous to outside on the streets, you could get bashed or robbed in your sleep.

I’ve now got a house through the Department of Housing and have been living in it for eight months. Through my work with The Big Issue, I’ve been able to save up enough money to properly take care of myself, I want to get some more blankets to keep myself warmer in the winter months- something that I wasn’t used to before.

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Like Paul, many of the homeless and disadvantaged do work, mainly through such helpful initiatives like The Big Issue, which offer them second chances and opportunities at a better life.

Next time you walk past someone selling a copy of the magazine, please think twice about ignoring them for a mere $6- you could be helping someone pay for their only meal for the day.

#youoverme

Written by JC

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Spotlight on Ted Williams: from homeless to American radio host

Ted Williams and the sign that lead to success
Ted Williams when he was homeless

Ted Williams, an American radio host, voice-over artist, and internet sensation. But life wasn’t always this way. Four years ago, Williams was an African American homeless man on the streets of Ohio begging people for spare change.

But let’s backtrack to his early life. After being honorably discharged following three years serving the United States Army, he enrolled at a voice acting school after being inspired by a radio announcer during his early school days. Following this, Williams often worked long, overnight shifts at WVKO (AM) radio station in Columbus during the soul music segments.

However, the year 1986 marked his downfall. Drugs and alcohol abuse started to overtake his life, on top of a loss of interest in his radio career. After being evicted from his house in 1994, Williams was arrested over seven times for charges of theft, drug possession, escape and robbery, along with counts of trespassing, pedestrian solicitation and drug abuse. For over two years, he sat in jail and lost everything.

And then things turned around.

Four years ago, when Williams was walking around the streets with a sign informing everyone, “I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times”, luck gave him another chance.

Doral Chenoweth, a videographer for the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio saw Williams with this cardboard sign, and subsequently asked him to demonstrate his voice whilst videoing it (watch it below).

The video was posted onto YouTube, where it gained viral status with over 20 million views. The media buzzed with excitement around the man with the “golden voice”. Who was this person that sounded like the love child of Morgan Freeman and David Attenborough? Where could they hear more? Williams’ story garnered a significant amount of attention, with many of the public creating sites to urge others to pledge money, clothes and job offers to him. Help him, they begged, give him a second chance at life.

In 2011, he was invited onto the ‘Dave and Jimmy Show’ on WNCI and also ‘The Early Show’ on CBS, along with the Today Show.

“It happened so fast. One day I’m homeless with not two pennies to rub together, and then the next day I’m in Hollywood”, he said.

One thing lead to another and Williams was offered a home and job by the Cleveland Caveliers NBA basketball team, along with side jobs from MSNBC to provide voiceovers. Additionally, he became the voice behind Kraft Food’s 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl campaign, as well as a $300,000 book advance.

However, depression soon followed due to the pressure of being thrust straight into the spotlight, a number of bad business deals and failed attempts at drug rehabilitation, which subsequently lead to him losing his car and condo.

Nowadays, a new manager and a renewed view on life has given him the determination to chase success till the end. He’s no longer homeless for the second time, and instead lives with his girlfriend in a house with a fire place (a major plus he says!), working as a voice-over artist whilst also finding satisfaction through his work with the homeless.

Now sober for a few years, Williams travels the country as a public speaker to organisations and groups, sharing his story and experiences in order to raise awareness about homelessness. He also became the mastermind behind ‘The Ted Williams Project’, a non-profit organisation that aims to eradicate homelessness in his hometown.

Ted Williams, a changed man
Ted Williams, a changed man

“I’m still in recovery,” he told Fox News. “But it has been three years since this divine blessing. I am looking forward to taking God’s message and the message of redemption, hope and of second chances, addiction, mental heath and homelessness…I had a cloud covering that star you know. Now that cloud is slowly moving away”.

Although the homeless may appear worthless and lazy in many instances, many of them, like Williams, have many more skills than we could ever dream of. Let’s give them the opportunities to show us. A second chance is open to anyone, as long as you always try and never give up hope. Like Williams, many of the homeless have jobs or used to, and we should never simply stereotype them.

#youoverme

Written by JC

The Chris Gardner Saga: Inspirational quotes

As seen below in our Spotlight on Chris Gardner, who once found himself homeless whilst working hard as a stockbroker to put a roof over him and his son’s heads, success is achievable even if you’re living on the streets. Now a multimillionaire, his story, ‘Pursuit of Happiness’, is one to admire.

Chris Gardner and Will Smith
Chris Gardner and Will Smith

Here are some inspirational quotes from Gardner to get you’re Wednesday hump day flowing:

  1. “I was homeless, but I wasn’t hopeless. I knew a better day was coming”.
  2. “It’s estimated that 12 percent of all of the homeless people in this country have jobs and go to work everyday”.
  3. “The future was uncertain, absolutely, and there were many hurdles, twists, and turns to come, but as long as I kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other, the voices of fear and shame, the messages from those who wanted me to believe that I wasn’t good enough, would be stilled”.
  4. “The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to find the pearls”.
  5. “Others may question your credentials, your papers, your degrees…But what is inside you no one can take from you or tarnish.”
  6. “Walk that walk and go forward all the time. Don’t just talk that talk, walk it and go forward. Also, the walk didn’t have to be long strides; baby steps counted too. Go forward”.
  7. “Still a dreamer, yet more of a realist than ever before, I knew this was my time to sail. On the horizon I saw the shining future, as before. The difference now was that I felt the wind at my back. I was ready”.

#youoverme

Written by JC

SOURCES:

Carmichael, E. (2014). Chris Gardner Quotes. [online] Evancarmichael.com. Available at: http://www.evancarmichael.com/Famous-Entrepreneurs/815/Chris-Gardner-Quotes.html [Accessed 20 Oct. 2015].

Goodreads.com, (2015). Chris Gardner > Quotes. [online] Available at: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/7127.Chris_Gardner [Accessed 20 Oct. 2015].

Spotlight on Chris Gardner: from homelesss to multimillionaire

Chris Gardner
Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner- a picture of perfectness filled with fatherhood and a multimillionaire business. But life wasn’t always this way. Growing up with an abusive stepfather that regularly beat his mother and being raped by a man as a boy certainly affected him greatly. Gardner’s ex-partner, Jackie, gave birth to their son, Christopher Jarrett Media Gardner Jr., in 1981, the same year that he was working as a research lab assistant at UCSF, which only paid $8,000 annually- an amount that was not enough to support a family, and eventually quit after four years, becoming a medical equipment salesman.

Gardner recalls a pivotal moment in his life, when he came across an immaculately-dressed man named Bob Bridges driving a red Ferrari whilst offering him his spot in a parking lot. “You can have my spot”, he said, “but I gotta ask you a couple questions… What do you do? How do you do it?”. The man answered back with, “I’m a stockbroker”.

More determined than ever to follow this man’s path, he began directly visiting investment firms to try and find work, but found himself taken into custody instead due to $1,200 of fines in unpaid parking tickets. After being released, Gardner went directly to Dean Witter Reynolds’ stock brokerage, and was accepted into the training program. Despite this being an unpaid internship, his determination to become the best shone through, and he would always be the first and last one in the office, always trying to reach his goal of 200 calls a day. However, this unpaid role meant that it began a struggle to support living expenses whilst also solely supporting a two-year-old son.

Chris Gardner and his son
Chris Gardner and his son

Gardner and his son secretly struggled with homelessness with none of his co-workers knowing about it for over a year. He would often make every effort to put his son in daycare, stand in soup kitchens, and slept anywhere where he and his son would be safe, such as at the office after hours, motels, public transport. In one case, they slept at MacArthur station in Oakland, CA, locking the door and sleeping the whole night on the bathroom floor, with people constantly banging loudly on the door wondering what was going on inside.

The bathroom floor where Gardner and his son slept overnight
The bathroom floor where Gardner and his son slept overnight
The toilet scene, as scene in Will Smith's 'Pursuit of Happiness'
The toilet scene, as scene in Will Smith’s ‘Pursuit of Happiness’

In another case, the father and son duo often had to wait in line for rooms provided by the local church. The lines for the rooms started at 6pm, and you had to be out by 8am the next morning. On numerous nights, they missed the cut, meaning that they had to sleep in subway stations or waiting areas.

Eventually, his willpower and refusal to give up lead to him being employed by Bear Stearns & Company, where he became a top earner through his ever-lasting determination. In 1987, he founded his own brokerage firm, Gardner Rich, in Chicago, and the rest is history.

“I couldn’t tell you that we were homeless, I just knew that we were always having to go. So, if anything, I remember us just moving, always moving”, says Gardner, looking back.

The first day that him and his son had their own roof over their heads will forever be etched clearly into Gardner’s mind. “On the first night we slept on the floor because we didn’t have any furniture yet. The next day we were walking out the door and my little boy got very upset. He said ‘papa, you forgot to bring our things’. He was upset because he was used to having to take our stuff with us every day, wherever we were. I don’t know how to explain the beauty of it, to be able to say to my little boy ‘we are home now, we don’t have to bring our stuff anymore.'”

He believes that homelessness that can affect anyone in the city, no matter the race or no matter how lazy or not lazy you are, and success is in the reach of anyone, if you try hard enough.

We hope that this inspirational story of Chris Gardner shows that there are more complex stories behind the homeless- hard work is not a word that is non existent in their vocabulary. I myself definitely do not have the ability to become a stockbroker!

Below is Gardner’s story made accessible through Will Smith’s adaption of it in ‘Pursuit of Happiness’.

Written by JC

Interview with: Joe

'Joe'
‘Joe’

Here at You Over Me, we see the power of engaging with others. So we took some time yesterday to go talk to someone special to find out his story and the reason why he is where he is today. We met up with ‘Joe’ (he preferred not to be pictured), a 39 year old homeless man that is usually situated in Newtown, and I drive past him everyday that I go to work. He always has all of his possessions packed into three or four bags next to him. He’s certainly not your average joe (pun intended), and showed me that there is definitely always more the eye. 

Q1: How did you come to live here?

I used to live in a little house with my wife at the time, and owned my own business (he described it as a paper printing company, similar to Kinko’s). It was destroyed by the downturn in the economy and the Internet and personal computers coming in- not many people needed to come in and print documents anymore as they had their own printers at home. It was so sad, I’d owned the company for over 10 years and had built so many relationships from it. After that, my wife and I started to grow apart and eventually she wanted a divorce, which because of a prenup that we signed before, I had to give her most of my money on top of expensive divorce fees.  I spiralled into depression and drinking. I’ve been homeless for about two years now.

Q2: What do you do everyday? Do you have job?

Contrary to popular belief, some of us work bloody hard everyday. Although I no longer have a home, everyday I’m trying to pick myself up and save up for something small. I wasn’t always like this (homeless), and I don’t believe I always will be. I work as a cleaner in the city, and so every morning I wake up at about 6am and go to the gym on the corner where they let me use the showers and get ready for work. Real nice of them. Rand, the owner he’s a good bloke, always helps me out when I’m in need. I work damn hard and haven’t called in sick even for one day. But the rental and housing rates are just too high, I can’t afford it at the moment and haven’t been able to get too many shifts.

Q3What’s the hardest part of being homeless?

Everyday is a struggle. Finding something to eat that is substantial, finding shelter when the shelter homes are full. The other day, I went into Maccas to get something to eat, and it was humiliating. Everyone was looking down at me because of the way that I was dressed. I used to be like everyone else, but it sometimes seems like we’re a completely different race or group from others. I didn’t get any shifts the week before as the company that I work as a cleaner closed for a week and didn’t need me, so I didn’t have much money for food. I wanted to get a burger but I only had a few dollars in my pocket, and I was missing 50 cents. So I couldn’t get the burger as I didn’t have 50 cents. It’s also hard because although I don’t have an alcohol problem anymore, sometimes when it’s freezing out here and all I have is one thin blanket, sometimes not even, I’m going to go to the liquor store and buy a drink when it’s that cold to warm me up a bit.

Joe, like many others, are not simply homeless because they choose to be. Many hardships and personal traumas have led to such situations, and many of them are working hard to change that around. We hope that this interview has helped bust the myth that homeless people are lazy and don’t actually have jobs. Clearly, that’s not the case. Stay tuned for more interviews!

Written by JC